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MTB world’s: Fumic snags U23 crown

With its rich tradition of great road racers, you’d think the Germans would have had a few breakthroughs in cross-country racing, too. But the fact is no German man has won so much as a World Cup during the last decade, and their record in world championships is even worse: 0-for-all time. The same goes for Great Britain. The last time a U.K. rider won a cross-country World Cup (Gary Foord in 1994), Ned Overend was still a mainstay on the circuit. Outside of the junior ranks, "God Save the Queen" has never been sung at the world championships. But all that began to change on Friday in Les

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Killeen made it a race to the end...

Killeen made it a race to the end…

Photo: Tom Moran

With its rich tradition of great road racers, you’d think the Germans would have had a few breakthroughs in cross-country racing, too. But the fact is no German man has won so much as a World Cup during the last decade, and their record in world championships is even worse: 0-for-all time.

The same goes for Great Britain. The last time a U.K. rider won a cross-country World Cup (Gary Foord in 1994), Ned Overend was still a mainstay on the circuit. Outside of the junior ranks, “God Save the Queen” has never been sung at the world championships.

But all that began to change on Friday in Les Gets, France. Using a string of sharp attacks during the final lap of the 37.9km under-23 cross-country, German Manuel Fumic slipped away from Great Britain’s Liam Killeen to earn an historical four-second world’s win.

...but Fumic was the last to lead.

…but Fumic was the last to lead.

Photo: Tom Moran

“Last year we finally had a breakthrough with Sabine,” said the 22-year-old Fumic, referring to the world’s win of Sabine Spitz, the first of any kind for a German mountain biker. “Now me today…it’s going to be a very big party.”

Early in the race it looked like Fumic wasn’t even going to get an invite to the party, let alone be the guest of honor. Following a blazing start that left most of the 92-rider field gasping for air, Fumic found himself alone in fourth while Killeen, Spain’s Inaki Lejarreta and Swiss Florian Vogel led at the front. The threesome would turn an opening lap of 17:55, the fastest of the day.

“They were going too fast for me,” admitted Fumic, who was 10 seconds back through the first of six laps around the 6.3km course. “I just had to go my own speed. But after two laps I decide that I would try to get to them.”

The German pulled this off with ease, closing down what had grown to a 23-second gap, while Lejarreta was headed in the opposite direction. The Spaniard had blown and would end up a distant fourth, at 3:47.

The next to go was Vogel. He’d shown his skills just two days earlier in the team relay, tying elite rider Geoff Kabush for the quickest lap of the day. But one lap isn’t the same as six, and Vogel had lost 1:17 to the leaders by the time he started the final climb on lap 5.

“I do not ride passively,” Vogel said. “I was stronger in the first part of the race and I tried to attack as much as I could. But I paid for it with about one and a half laps to go. I had to stay back or I would have won nothing.”

Indeed, Vogel would hold on for the bronze, leaving the endgame to Fumic and Killeen.

As the bell sound for the final lap, it was Killen leading the pair out for one last turn around the Les Gets course. Each would spend time in the lead throughout the next 15 minutes, before Fumic finally made his move.

“I was attacking, then Killeen was attacking,” Fumic said. “But at the end of the biggest climb I was always able to get 15 meters. The last time I was able to keep that gap.”

Killeen’s last chance would come on the tricky creek descent before the course wound its way briefly through the narrow streets of Les Gets, bringing the riders back into view of the finish. But Fumic held his lead, giving him just enough time to grab a German flag from a spectator, then cruise across the line in triumph.

“This is a big disappointment,” said Killeen. “But I’m still leading the World Cup under-23, so that’s not such a bad prize either.”

Indeed, before these two came along the Brits and the Germans had never been in serious contention for much of anything in the world of cross-country racing. But after watching this performance, it’s clear things have changed.

NORTH AMERICAN WRAP
It was a tough day for the 13 North Americans contesting the under-23 race on Friday. The top finisher was Canadian Max Plaxton in 24th, at 11:51, while the No. 1 American was Nick Waite, 40th at 14:51.

Bigger things had been expected of Plaxton, but after getting caught up in a crash early in the race, the Canadian said his motivation faded.

“I had a good start and was near the front,” he said. “But then a guy went down in front of me and I came down on top of him. After that I kind of lost my initiative.”

Indeed after turning the 11th fastest lap during his fourth trip around the course, Plaxton shut it down. He final two laps were 35th and 40th fastest.

Meanwhile Waite said he felt good in the beginning and then just fell flat.

“I don’t really know what happened,” said Waite, a member of the USA Cycling under-23 development team. “It was like I was trying to peel through the layers of flatness but I never got to the end.”

Click on the race results link to see how the rest of the North Americans fared.

Racing in Les Gets continues Saturday with the finals of the downhill and four-cross. Racing concludes with the men’s and women’s cross-country events on Sunday. Check back throughout the weekend for reports, results and photos.

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Results

2004 WORLD MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS; LES GETS, FRANCE. SEPTEMBER 8-12; UNDER-23 CROSS-COUNTRY;
1. FUMIC Manuel (G), 37.9km in 1:56:10 ;
2. KILLEEN Liam (GB), 1:56:14 +04 ;
3. VOGEL Florian (SWI), 1:58:24 +2:14 ;
4. LEJARRETA ERRASTI Inaki (Sp), 1:59:57 +3:47 ;
5. RUZAFA CUETO Ruben (Sp), 2:01:24 +5:14 ;
6. YAKYMENKO Oleksandr (Ukr), 2:02:20 +6:10 ;
7. MANETSCH Gion (Swi), 2:03:03 +6:53 ;
8. LINDGREN Emil (Swe), 2:03:25 +7:15 ;
9. EBERL Filip (Cz), 2:03:45 +7:35 ;
10. BÖHME Tim (G), 2:03:48 +7:38 ;
NORTH AMERICANS;
24. PLAXTON Max (Can), 2:08:01 + 11:51 ;
31. SNEDDON Kris (Can), 2:09:33 + 13:23 ;
40. WAITE Nick (USA), 2:11:01 + 14:51 ;
43. SCHULTZ Sam (USA), 2:12:12 + 16:02 ;
49. ZANDSTRA Derek (Can), 2:14:16 + 18:06 ;
50. OBYE Alan (USA), 2:14:26 + 18:16 ;
62. LAZARSKI Martin (Can), -1Lap ;
66. DEVINE John (USA), -1Lap ;
68. RANNO Nicholas (USA), -2Laps ;
71. HADLEY Matt (Can), -2Laps ;
72. HAGMAN Alex (USA), -2Laps ;
73. SCHOUTEN Tristan (USA), -2Laps ;
76. WATSON Andrew (Can), -2Laps